Although Rain is from a play (inspired by the Somerset Maugham story), it doesn’t feel stagey or immobile. The camera and dialog keep it moving.
And what a surprise! It’s the bold story of a prostitute (Sadie/Joan Crawford) and a religious reformer (Mr. Davidson/Walter Huston) battling over lifestyle choices on the rainy island of Pago Pago. It’s a little stagey, filmed almost entirely inside a hotel, and Walter Huston’s Christian missionary is so stiff he looks like he’s wearing a back brace. But the dialog is splendidly fast and powerful, and it’s easy to forget the cramped setting.
The film does looks its age, but the clash of wills is still riveting after more than 80 years. I found it easy to fall in love with the wise-cracking good-hearted Sadie, who goes from Mae West to Joan of Arc and back. And I was horrified when the missionaries entered the picture. From the get-go they were combative and self-righteous. The movie makes it clear that their kind of religion leads to a creepy mix of violence and misplaced eroticism.
When I finished “Rain,” I thought about it that evening and much of the next day. Strong stuff!